Getting arrested is a stressful and upsetting situation, but it’s very important to not let that affect your judgment. The wrong reaction can take away possible defenses or lead to additional charges. To protect your rights, do these six things if you are arrested.
If you’re taken into custody, it’s only natural to feel upset. Don’t take it out on the police officers, though. For minor offenses, many officers might be willing to cut people a break and let them off with a warning, give them a notice to appear, or not charge the highest possible crime. Even if they aren’t, fighting and arguing is likely to start a fight that you can’t win. In addition to the original charge, you may be facing charges like obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, or assaulting a police officer.
Other than giving your name and providing identification, never give additional information to a police officer. Many will frame questions as getting your side of the story or just start what seems to be casual conversation, but remember that anything you say can and will be used against you. If a police officer decides to arrest you, they’ve decided that you’re guilty of a crime and everything they ask is designed to build a case against you. Politely respond to any questions that you’re exercising your right to remain silent and don’t want to answer any questions without an attorney present.
When you are arrested at home or in your car, it may seem that a police search is inevitable. They will always search your person. Even though an arrest often will give police expanded authority to legally make a search without your consent, don’t give consent. First, you may not realize that you’re agreeing to a search that they would need a warrant for. Second, if you don’t consent to the search and the arrest was later found to be invalid, anything found during the search would almost always be inadmissible in court.
The one exception is if you are being taken to jail and the arresting officer somehow missed drugs, a weapon, or some other illegal item that you are carrying. Bringing contraband into a jail is a separate crime that brings a more serious charge. Even if a judge later finds you were arrested illegally, if contraband is found once you get to jail, that charge will still likely be upheld. Therefore, if you are certain you are being brought to jail, you must tell the officer that they missed something before you arrive.
Often, police will offer to escort you to your home or car to get a jacket, your wallet, or some other personal item or to turn off the lights or lock up. They may also offer to do this themselves.
Never accept the offer. Doing so allows them to look around in your home or your car when they otherwise may not have been able to do so. In addition to being able to do what you explicitly allowed, they can also look for anything that may put them in danger and will routinely stretch the limits of these restrictions. Your lawyer will have a much easier time in court arguing that the officers had no permission at all to do something rather than that they may have gone too far.
If you are arrested, you need to contact a reputable and experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Often, one will be appointed to come talk to you while you are still in jail waiting to see a judge. However, in some cases, you may be released with a notice to appear, without being charged, or before a formal arraignment. Even if you weren’t charged with a crime, contact a lawyer just to be sure your record is properly expunged and the incident won’t affect you in the future. If you are charged, it’s vital to start working on your defense as soon as possible.
While the outcome of your case is never guaranteed, doing these six things when you are arrested will help put you on the road to the best outcome possible.